A Night off with Viewer, Muttley Crew, The Wharf Street Galaxy Band, and Sherbert Flies at The Fleeting Arms, York, 15th May 2015

I spend a significant amount of time writing about music. So much so that recently, my literary work has taken very much a back-seat position on account of my reviewing work. What can I say? I’m drowning in CDs, downloads and streams, and I hate turning things down, especially free gigs.

Tonight was about taking a night off. I could use one. Recently, I’ve been working beyond fatigue. But sleep’s for wimps and eating’s cheating and who needs drugs when you’ve got sleep deprivation? Anyway. Not only am I a huge fan of Viewer, but I’ve also known front man AB Johnson, who I was proud to feature in the last Clinical, Brutal anthology I edited, for some 21 years now. The fact they were set to play alongside a cracking collection of artists I also know and admire in varying capacities, at a pay-what-you like event at a venue I’ve been meaning to check out for a while made it a night I knew I really ought not to miss.

And yes, about the venue: The Fleeting Arms, as the name suggests, is a pop-up pub, a venture whereby a collective have taken on a former venue on a short-term lease with a view to making it available for all things arts and more. It epitomises boho chic, not out of some hipster fetish for retro and artisan, but out of necessity, and the assorted freecycle furniture, coupled with the various old-school consoles situated in the bar (MarioKart on the N64, anyone?) is integral to the easy-going, community spirit of the place. It feels welcoming on arrival, and the fact it isn’t Wetherspoons or in any way designer and more resembles someone’s living room is perhaps the reason why. It’s also pretty busy by the time I arrive shortly after 8pm, just as Sherbert Flies launch into their lively set.

If writing about their ‘slacker’ style and suggesting they’re heavily influenced by Pavement smacks of lazy journalism, so be it. I was supposed to be taking a night off after all. But their casual demeanour (at one point singer Elliot Barker announced that they’d probably be releasing a track as a single tomorrow, adding, “If anyone wants to hear it, I’ve got it on my iPhone”) and wonky riffage has a definite charm, and made for a thoroughly enjoyable set.

The Wharf Street Galaxy Band are something of a supergroup, comprising members of Neuschlafen / Orlando Ferguson and Legion of Swine / Inhuman Resources. Donning some bad shirts and wielding an array of shakers, wooden blocks and a cowbell they crank out some repetitive grooves and shards of dissonant guitar noise by way of a backdrop to Dave Proctor’s off-kilter ramblings about puffins and selfie sticks. I could write at length about their semi-improvised avant-garde performance style or highlight the all-to-obvious similarities to The Fall circa 1979, but instead, the 7-song setlist that found its way into my hands after the set is likely to be just as illuminating and more amusing. It also reads like a piece of abstract poetry in itself: ‘Shoreditch / Puffins / We Can Help / Sergio / Walking / Selfie / Bellends’.

While I’ve seen Muttley solo a few times, this is only the first or second time I’ve seen the full Muttley Crew lineup, and it’s immediately clear that they’re a band who understand that less is more. The songs are built around simple, repetitive three-chord repetitions, at which they bludgeon away for six, seven, eight minutes, building layers of sound into hypnotic swirls overlayed with squalling noise. But it’s all about the rhythm section: bass and drums are impressively tight and forge an instinctive groove, and their drummer is my new hero. You want motoric, mechanised and metronomic? You got it. There’s nothing flamboyant or fancy about his style, no big fills or flourishes. Instead, he plays like a machine, plugging away at a relentless rhythm and holding the maelstrom of guitars together perfectly.

Viewer are all about a different kind of groove: thumping techno provides the backdrop to Johnson’s sneering monotone in which he couches acerbic socio-political comment. With the visuals playing up, Tim Wright is rather more active on stage than usual, although you couldn’t go so far as to describe him as twitchy. On this outing, the songs seem to have been tweaked, giving a more stripped back and direct sound that inches toward Factory Floor territory at times. The last track of their set, which I didn’t catch the name of, was dark and pounding, and accompanied by grainy images of riots and Anonymous masks, hinting more toward the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Test Department. Like the other acts on the bill, they sounded great, and Johnson’s reversible bodywarmer is something special.

 

Viewer

Viewer: a groove sensation

 

There’s a lot to be said for simple rectangular spaces when it comes to sound, and in keeping with the Fleeting Arms ethos, this event was very much about people coming together and doing stuff, no budget, no agenda other than being creative and getting it out there.

The fact there were so many people present I knew only made it all the better on a personal level, but there’s a broader resonance to emerge from this microcosmic experience. It shows that we don’t need to smash capitalism, and while Cameron’s post-Thatcher is capitalism seems intent on crushing the country’s collective spirit (not to mention its pub trade and heritage), after the music industry as we knew it already succeeded in facilitating its own demise, there are people doing what they do for the right reasons, and there are people who appreciate it and will happily support it. It’s not about money. It’s about art, and community. This is exactly what we need right now.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

‘Celebrated Author’ Christopher Nosnibor Edits New Book: Launch Event Details

I’ve been keeping busy. Too busy to blog, in fact. Editing the new Clinical, Brutal anthology has been a big job. The quality of the submissions has been astounding, and the burden of responsibility of doing justice to the incredible pieces by the incredible contributing authors was immense. I like to think we’ve done it.

The first print run, which consists of 50 copies has arrived at the Clinicality office, and Stuart and I are in the process of numbering each one individually ahead of the launch and, of course, getting copies to the contributors.

We’re inordinately proud not just of the book, but the fact we’ve managed to secure The Woolpack in York for the launch even on Monday, September 8th. Initially, we’d been anticipating a late September launch, but The Woolpack will sadly cease to operate as a venue early in September. This means we were lucky, and decided to bring the launch forward in order to be able to get our first-choice venue.

For those who don’t know, The Woolpack is a small pub venue that over the last year or so has been a great supporter of the music and spoken word scenes in the city of York, drawing bands and readers from far afield. The vibe is exceptional, intimate, accommodating and quite simply something special. The beer is also superb. But as e know, artistic merit and commercial success are rarely synonymous, and while many events have drawn substantial crowds, financial viability is the bottom line. People need to turn profit in order to pay bills and eat.

The Woolpack’s Spokes night (which grew out of the Mark Wynn-hosted blahathon) has, over the last year or thereabouts, given exposure and opportunity to many excellent performers, the likes of whom are unlikely to get slots, let alone much of a reception at other spoken word nights. I count myself amongst these (although I still derive satisfaction from having driven people from the venue during the first paragraph of my performance the first time I read ‘The Drill’ at Spokes).

This means that the Clinical, Brutal book launch is also effectively the last Spokes night The Woolpack will host (although I’m pleased to be able to say it has found a new home at The Golden Ball from October). As such, it will be a celebration not only of the book,l but the venue and its achievements and the evening’s lineup, which includes Mark Wynn (whose ‘Culture Cock’ multimedia frenzy is the centrepiece of the anthology) and Dai Parsons (Spokes co-ordinator and mainstay performer) reflects this.

Entry will be free, and limited numbered copies of Clinical, Brutal 2 will be available at the special discounted price of £6.00 on the night, along with a selection of Clinicality Press titles from the back catalogue.

Below is the event poster. It’d be great to see as many people there as possible, to give the book and The Woolpack the best possible send-off.

 

Clinical Launch Poster copy

 

Meanwhile, I’m off to celebrate myself…

 

THE PLAGIARIST: REWIRED – 360-Degree Audio-Visual Multisensory Assault Hits York on November 16th @ Wire Wool 1.2

It’s not often I plug stuff in my blog, but then it’s not often I take this particular show on the road, and while I’ve been making fairly frequent spoken-word performances in recent months, THE PLAGIARIST: REWIRED is no simple spoken word performance. It’s entirely fitting that I should be participating in the re-run of Wire Wool 1 that ran a couple of months ago. Curated by VIEWER, a band I’ve championed because they’re seriously good and not because they’re friends of mine (although they are) Wire Wool features music by SAND accompanied by some fucked-up visuals, incisive social commentary and intersections courtesy of AB Johnson and DJ sets by Tim Wright (of Viewer / Sand who’s previously recorded under the Tube Jerk moniker)… and my brain-malting multimedia explosion.

Brace yourselves and be there… details below. And yes, it really is free.

I’ve also found a handful of numbered copies of THE PLAGIARIST in that I’ll be flogging or willing to exchange for beer.

 

Wire Wool 2

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at http://christophernosnibor.co.uk

 

 

When is a gig not a gig? When it’s a multimedia performance art display…

Viewer / Bastard Structures / Beaumont Hannant – Bar Lane Studios Basement, York, 13th May 2011

The walk through town was hell as I cut my way through drunken weaving tossers in shiny suits and smashed bimbos who’d fled the races in search of more booze, food and amusement. The races might be good for the local economy, but that’s about it. As I headed up Mickelgate through the teaming hoards of plastered fuckwits, I encounter a familiar face. it’s the bearded eccentric techno wizard Tim Wright, one half of York techno should-be legends Viewer.

‘You’re going the wrong way,’ I tell him.

He explains that he needs food and is on a mission, so I wish him luck in his quest and continue onward to the venue. The Bar Lane Studios was, once upon a time, York’s Sony Centre, and I purchased my current stereo, including turntable, from there, back in 1998 or thereabouts. It’s now an art gallery and studio setup, beneath which there’s a basement that’s home to live music, theatre and more. At the door, there’s a cluster of people smoking and chatting, and there emerges a skinny guy with some wicked chops and a bad shirt. it’s AB Johnson, the other half of Viewer. He greets me, but can’t stop: he’s looking a bit vexed, and not without reason. He needs to find Tim to sort an issue with the projectors. Sometimes, there are things even a hundred yards of gaffer tape can’t handle.

I make my way down into the basement, a brilliant space for such an event. It’s a plain and solid rectangle, with bare-brick walls, flagstone floors and not a lot else besides a PA and a temporary bar with four different varieties of Roosters beer on pump. This definitely gets my vote, and by the time I’m halfway down a pint of the Mocha Stout at 4.7% ABV, I’m less concerned about the prospect of one of the projectors stuck to the ceiling falling on my head. There are a fair few people I’m acquainted with present, so I mingle and talk bollocks at them while superstar DJ Beaumont Hannant creates a pleasant ambience.

It’s around 9pm when Tim Wright and his collaborator Theo Burt take up their stations behind their laptops stage right and the venue is plunged into darkness for their Bastard Structures show. It’s not ambient, and nor is it entirely pleasant, and that’s a good thing. Put simply, this is multimedia art at its most absolute: the visuals drive the music, with the shifting shapes actually triggering the sounds, and it’s neatly arranged to alternate between pieces by each artist, interspersed with truly collaborative crossover pieces. Wright’s works are stark and brutal, Merzbow-like walls of noise and dark, penetrative frequencies assailing the aural receptors while harsh strobe effects and black and white images flicker scorch the retinas in the most abrasive, unforgiving fashion. Burt’s pieces contrast well, being lighter, playful even, easier on both eye and ear and more clearly designed for amusement, and the crossover pieces bring the two styles together to dizzying effect. A chap I know later remarked that he enjoyed ‘the fun ones’. Needless to say, I preferred the ones that inflicted pain on my senses and fucked with my head.

Bastard Structures

 

Time for another pint as I’m working my way down the bar and around the people I’m familiar with, and then Viewer are up. The projections – more brain-bending optical shapes that hypnotise in no time and completely suck you in – provide the perfect backdrop to the duo’s sassy, savvy brand of pulsating techno indie pop.

 

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When I say that Viewer are cynical, I don’t mean calculated or contrived: the lyrics, penned by AB, to songs such as ‘Dumb it Down’, ‘White Noise’ and ‘Sunrise’ are sneering swipes at society, at conformity, at, well, take your pic. Johnson’s vocal style – which falls between Mark E. Smith, and, as another reviewer has suggested, Lou Reed – seems as much at odds with the music as his image and lyrics, and it’s precisely because of these contradictions that Viewer are such an interesting proposition. AB is also a great front man who looks entirely at home on stage – again, in complete contrast to Wright, who lurks in the shadows, hunched over his laptop and remains seated. He knows exactly what he’s doing, of course: namely controlling the thumping beats and solid basslines that provide the foil for Johnson’s quirky delivery and showmanship.

 

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All the while the geometric patterns roll endlessly, searing their shapes into the retinas of the onlookers. It’s a groove alright, and by the time they closed the set with a reprise of ‘Suicide Girl’, my senses were tripping in overdrive.

 

Viewer – All the Pretty Young Things

Back up on street level, the world had gone mad, with the racegoing revellers wreaking drunken carnage in a shiny-suited remake of one of Hogarth’s scenes. Somehow, as I weaved through the inebriated shouts and squawks, the men standing in shop doorways pissing over their own snakeskin shoes, and the flashing blue lights of approaching police vans and ambulances, the unsettling juxtaposition of two very different sides of life on the same street seemed perfectly apt.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk